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It's the Law

Sound-Producing Devices


Sound producing devices

In periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal his or her intentions or position, a sound-producing device is essential.

Use this chart to determine which device is required.

On State Waters

Less than 16 feet long and under engine power Hand, mouth, or power whistle
16 feet to less than 26 feet long and under engine power Hand, mouth, or power whistle audible for one-half mile
26 feet to less than 40 feet long and under engine power A bell and a hand or power whistle audible for one mile
40 feet long or longer and under engine power A bell and a power whistle audible for one mile

On Federally Controlled Waters

Less than 65.6 feet long (includes PWC and “ski craft”) Whistle or horn audible for one-half mile
65.6 feet long or longer Whistle or horn and a bell audible for one mile

Sound Signals

Some common sound signals that you should be familiar with as a recreational boater are as follows.

Changing Direction

  • One short blast tells other boaters, “I intend to pass you on my port (left) side.”
  • Two short blasts tell other boaters, “I intend to pass you on my starboard (right) side.”
  • Three short blasts tell other boaters, “I am operating astern propulsion.” For some vessels, this tells others boaters, “I am backing up.”

Restricted Visibility

  • One prolonged blast at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by power-driven vessels when underway.
  • One prolonged blast plus two short blasts at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by sailboats under sail alone.

Warning

  • One prolonged blast is a warning signal (for example, used when coming around a blind bend or exiting a slip).
  • Five (or more) short, rapid blasts signal danger or signal that you do not understand or that you disagree with the other boater’s intentions.